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A Crash Course Into Deep Work Sessions

Do you find it difficult to complete tasks in without getting distracted? If so, deep work sessions may help you with your productivity.

March 4, 2021

Do you find it difficult to complete tasks without getting distracted? If so, deep work sessions will help increase your focus and productivity.

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What is deep work?

Deep work is a state of productivity where you can focus on a demanding task without getting distracted. During deep work sessions, your brain processes information more quickly and you feel like you’re in "focus" mode.

How do I reach a state of deep work?

The first step to reaching a state of deep work is to recognize your distractors. When trying to complete a task, what sidetracks you? Is it a notification on your phone, or a cat video compilation? In either case, it’s important to understand what distracts you so you can actively prevent it from happening.

Once you’ve identified your biggest distractors, create blockers for them. For example, if notifications usually throw you off track, try turning them off, or temporarily switching on Do Not Disturb mode on your phone and laptop, ensuring only essential, task-related notifications come through. Pro tip: Opal is now on Chrome!

If you have the tendency to pick up your phone and mindlessly scroll on social media, start a session on Opal while you’re doing work. Every time you want to go on social media, like Instagram, you’ll be asked to take a break and set an intention—these steps intentionally make it harder for you to get distracted by these apps.

What are some deep work power tips?

Creating additional blockers for your distractors isn't the only action you can take to improve your productivity and enter a deep work state. Here are a few tips from Cal Newport's book—Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World:

  1. Set strict boundaries for yourself for when to work and be clear about what you want to accomplish at the end of this session. Often, we get sidetracked when there is no clear end goal or natural end-to-work sessions. It's more rewarding to plan for (and complete) two pages of a paper from 2-4 PM than it is to have a goal of finishing the entire assignment and blocking out the entire day, only to end up completing two pages and being unproductive for the rest of the time.
  2. Reverse-schedule your calendar. Instead of having a daily to-do list, also block out when you want to work on specific tasks. Our article on Personal Time-ance outlines the concept of time-blocking—when you give yourself time limits to accomplish certain tasks, it will create a sense of urgency that motivates you to get that task done within the specified timeframe.
  3. Use commutes or down-time for shallow work. Activities like replying to emails and Slack messages, folding laundry and filling in forms/spreadsheets take less headspace, so it's a good idea to save these for your "breaks" from deep work sessions—when you find yourself getting tired or stuck on your cognitively demanding task—as a reset that won't cause you to spiral into unproductivity.

Do you use Opal to implement deep work sessions in your schedule? Which of these tips work best for you?

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